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Being ‘anti-union’ perfectly legal

Mark Goodman | Thursday, April 8, 2010

I want to respond to one of the assumptions that appears to underly Sarah Furman’s March 31 column about the HEI hotel company (“HEI: Still an issue”). She criticizes HEI for being “anti-union.” She seems to assume that being anti-union is either illegal or immoral. It is neither.
An employer, at least under current law, has every right to encourage its employees not to form or join a union. An employer is well within its rights, both legally and morally, to think that a union will not be in the best interests of the company or of its employees. While there are those who wish to deny employers the right and ability to communicate with their employees about unions organizing, employers in the U.S. have long been at liberty to speak with their employees about these matters.
If an employer goes beyond exercising his constitutionally protected right of free speech, and instead engages in actions that violate federal labor laws, then of course he should be held accountable for those violations. Whether HEI violated such laws is a matter to be decided by the NLRB — though I would caution anyone from assuming guilt merely based on allegations by NLRB staff.
My point is that encouraging employees not to join a union is not synonymous with denying them the right to do so. If, after hearing both sides of the argument, employees freely choose to unionize, then that is their right. However, we should not assume that employers who are “anti-union,” in the sense that they actively communicate with their employees and encourage them to not join a union, are acting either illegally or immorally.

Mark Goodman
class of 1983
April 6